A force field, sometimes known as an energy shield, force shield, or deflector shield is a concept of a field tighly bounded and of significant magnitude so that objects affected by the particular force relating to the field are unable to pass through the central axis of the field and reach the other side. Commonly depicted as an impenetrable wall of energy.
The new type of armour will use pulses of electrical energy to repel rockets, shrapnel and other ammunition that might damage a vehicle.
Researchers at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), which is the research and development arm of the Ministry of Defence, claim it is possible to incorporate material known as supercapacitors into armour of a vehicle to turn it into a kind of giant battery.
When a threat from incoming fire is detected by the vehicle, the energy stored in the supercapacitor can be rapidly dumped onto the metal plating on the outside of the vehicle, producing a strong electromagnetic field.
Scientists behind the project claim this would produce a momentary “force field” capable of repelling the incoming rounds and projectiles.
Although it would last for only a fraction of a second, if timed correctly it could prevent rocket propelled grenades, which detonate on impact, from reaching their target. The supercapacitor could then be rapidly recharged ready for another attack.
The idea is similar to the force fields portrayed in science fiction movies which produce an invisible protective shell around a vehicle or object.
Professor Bryn James, head of Dstl’s armour and protection science and technology centre, said the electric armour had the potential to dramatically decrease the weight of military vehicles and tanks.
Currently few tanks are able to carry enough armour needed to resist impacts from RPG rounds, which produce jets of molten copper capable of punching through more than foot of solid steel upon impact.
He said: “The supercapacitor material can be charged up and then discharged in one powerful event to repel incoming fire.
“You would think this would require huge amounts of energy, but we have found it can be done with surprisingly small amounts of electrical power.
“Conventional armour is just a lump of metal but an RPG round can punch through more than a foot of steel. Carrying around enough armour to protect against that is extremely heavy.
“The real advantage to the electric armour is how light it can be by comparison.”
Television and film
Science fiction and fantasy venues postulate a number of potential uses for force fields:
- A barrier to allow workers to work in areas that can be exposed to the vacuum of space, keeping the atmosphere inside while allowing certain other objects to pass through.
- Emergency quarantine of an area afflicted by a harmful biological or chemical agent or occupied by enemy forces.
- The extinguishing of a fire by forcing the reaction to use up all the available oxygen in the confined space.
- As a shield from damage by natural forces or enemy attack.